Remember a while ago I posted a blog entitled “Dinner is a Battlefield”? (If you’re curious you can find it here). I made that cute reference to Pat Benatar. We had a bit of a laugh at how frustrating life was. And then miraculously just after I posted that article Stormaggedon decided that dinner was actually a really great thing, and eventually devoured everything we put in front of him, like the future destroyer of worlds that he is. I walked away from that episode admonishing myself for being so anxious over the situation, dusted my hands off and thought well deservedly “I’m so glad that’s all behind us now!” Ha ha, ha haha, hahahaha HA HAHA HA HAAAA!… yeah. Guess what. It’s SO not over.
I’m not quite sure, but since when did I have to start hiding food inside other less insidious looking food? And by insidious I of course mean any vegetable every grown. It started out innocuously enough. A carrot every now and then. Then broccoli. Well that’s not surprising now is it. Just mush it together, or put it in a pie. Or yoghurt. Seriously. Then other foods had to start being hidden. Surprising ones. Potatoes for instance. Since when did we have to hide potatoes? And WHAT do you hide it in!? Potatoes is usually the stuff you hide OTHER vegetables in, not the other way around! Capsicum was soon off the list too. “But you love capsicum!” I would cry. It was so cute, handing him a raw strip that he would much down whilst saying “yum, capicum” (So adorable, not be able to say the S). Now all of a sudden it was poison. Poison I say! Or rather he says. Ok, not so much say, but you get the idea. Look, that’s fine, let try to some old favourites that we haven’t re-visited for a while. Avocado? Nope. Sweet potato? Nope. Celery? Nope. Ok, let’s leave off the vegetables for a while. Why don’t we try something different. Tuna bake, pasta, four bean mix, scrambled eggs, bakes beans, toast. No, no, no, no, NO, NO!!!
Deep breath. Alright let’s have a conversation. Yes, communication with your child is key. It makes them feel like they have a say. Some power over the situation. Don’t give them too many choices, just engage them in the conversation. That way they’ll think they’ll be exuding more power than they actually are. This is bound to work. But of course, the not-quite-three-year-old logic kicks in.
Me: “Stormy, dinner is ready.”
Mr S: “I don’t like that food”
Me: “Try it first.”
Mr S: “Can I have some food please?”
Me: “That’s food there. On your plate. Try it.”
Mr S: “Can I have something else?”
Me: “No, that’s dinner there. Please eat it.”
Mr S: “I would like some food on my plate”
Me: “That IS food. Please eat”
Mr S: “I don’t like this food”
Me: “Well that’s all the food you’re getting”
Mr S: “I would like something else”
Me: (Siiiiiiiiigh) “Well what WOULD you like then”
Mr S: “Mmmm, something else”
Me: “I understand that, but you have to tell me specifically what you want”
Mr S: “Some food”
Me: “Stormy, that IS food”
Mr S: “Mmmm, no thanks” (pushes bowl away)
Me: (trying not to get even more frustrated than I am) “Stormy, you have to eat that because there’s nothing else”
Mr S: “No thanks” (wanders away from table).
Well, at least he’s polite about it. This cyclical conversation goes on for a while. Every night. I am now a mixed bag of emotions including rage, frustration, and holding in my laughter. He never once raises his voice or loses his cool, which makes it even more frustrating. His outright politeness fills me at the same time with a sense of swelling pride and Hulk like rage. Even more frustratingly, in one moment he’ll be refusing to eat the sumptuous meal placed in front of him, and then is quite content to eat crumbs off the floor that I haven’t swept up since lunch time. Floor food. FLOOR FOOD! Perhaps I should just dump his dinner on the floor to make it more appetizing! Is that what you want!? Ok, kind of lost my cool there, time for a new plan…
Some have said that perhaps I’m bending too much to his will, giving him too many choices. Faced with a hungry child before bedtime, I know I’m making it worse by giving in and providing him with a different meal, but at the same time I value sleep more than whether I’m spoiling him for choices. And as I said before, I believe that providing him with a place in the decision making helps him to feel more engaged and in control. So I try another tactic and put it onto him. Next time, before the dinner making starts I ask him what he would like for dinner. One particular evening he excitedly yells back “Cous cous, cous cous! I want cous cous!” Alright then, cous cous it is. “Yaaaaaaayyyyyyyy!” He marches through the house chanting cous cous over and over again. Not quite sure where he got this sudden enthusiasm for cous cous from, but whatever I’ll go with it.
I lovingly make the cous cous, and over a half hour period he excitedly keeps up his marching and chanting. The moment comes, and I reverentially place this dish down in front of him declaring “Cous cous!”, with the expectation that he will immediately jump in and devour every bite. He pauses as he takes the dish in, then looks up at me with a blank face. “No thanks”, as he politely pushes the bowl away and walks away from the table……HULK. SMASH!
This has now kept up for the last month and half. Even the other tactics that used to work have now failed. Smothering the food with tomato sauce, apple sauce or mayonnaise. Dumping a bucket load of cheese on top. Even cheese is now off the menu! I used to be able to distract him by piling his toys onto his tray while shovelling the food in his mouth before he noticed. And yes, I’m aware that one of my tips for parenting was to keep toys away from the table because children should know and understand the difference between play time and dinner time. Blah blah blah, yeah, I want to murder Past Me too. She was an idiot. I know that I should just take this with a grain of salt, it’s yet another phase that he will soon grow out of. If anything, I should look back over my previous posts and remember that this too shall pass, just like my worries of everything else.
But like all those other times, this is the moment where it is happening, and the future seems so very far away. I have no advice or thoughts on how this will get better, excepting just to “Give it time” (mumble mumble grrr).
Now excuse me while I go and make a spectacular, healthy, and delicious feast which will almost certainly be refused in the politest of ways.